ACLU, Teachers Union Settle Free Speech Lawsuit Against City of Boston

July 2, 2007 12:00 am

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Suit Charged Retaliation Against Teacher for Testifying Against Funding of JROTC in Public Schools


BOSTON — The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the Boston Teachers Union today announced that they have settled a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of long-time substitute teacher Jeffrey Herman against Jose Duarte, the headmaster of Boston’s English High School. Duarte put Herman on a “Do Not Call” substitute teacher list for English High School after Herman testified at a Boston City Council hearing against the city spending over one million dollars for Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) programs in Boston public schools.

“I testified at City Hall that taxpayer dollars would be better spent on teaching kids how to stop the violence that is plaguing our city,” said Herman. “After that, Mr. Duarte screamed at me to get out of his school. Since schools are supposed to teach respect for the Constitution, I believed Mr. Duarte needed a lesson himself.”

In settling the lawsuit, the city did not admit to any wrongdoing by the headmaster, but agreed to a monetary payment to Herman and his attorneys in exchange for dismissing the lawsuit. Herman, who has been outspoken about his criticisms of Duarte’s leadership of the school in general, also agreed he would not return to substituting at English High School as long as Duarte is still headmaster there. The school department agreed that when Duarte is no longer the headmaster, Herman’s name will be removed from the “Do Not Call” list for that high school.

“The Boston Teachers Union, which supported Jeff’s right to speak out in this case, is pleased that the matter has been amicably resolved,” said attorney Matthew Dwyer. “The union always takes seriously any infringement, actual or threatened, on the First Amendment rights of its members.”

Sarah Wunsch, an ACLU of Massachusetts staff attorney, said the ACLU is glad the case had been settled.

“Teachers are entitled to political opinions just like everyone else,” Wunsch said. “We need them to feel free to share those opinions with public and elected officials, outside the school, without fear of losing their jobs for doing so. Jeff Herman had a right to speak out at City Hall about Boston spending over a million dollars on JROTC, especially with great public debate going on right now about the war in Iraq and the lack of alternatives for poor kids to pay for college.”

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